Monday, March 16, 2020

PEOPLE living with Cystic Fibrosis in Waterford and across the country have ‘naturally increased anxiety’ levels regarding the potential impact of Covid-19.

Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, the Chief Executive of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland (CFI) stressed that “we are all in this together”.

Philip Watt said it was understandable that “the main focus of the Government is on the general population but CFI will continue to strive for the additional needs of those with CF”.

He added: “We welcome the measures to reduce the spread of the disease such as closing schools, pubs and other related measures. However, we remain concerned that in the event of an escalation of Covid-19 there will be added pressure to use CF facilities in hospitals. This will inevitably cause considerable added anxiety among our patients and we have written to Minister (Simon) Harris to urge any changes do not result in delays or compromise CF care in our hospitals.”

As CFI reminded this newspaper today, CF primarily impacts on the lungs and places those with CF among the ‘high-risk’ groups with a long-term respiratory condition.

And given that the Republic of Ireland has the highest rate of CF per capita in the world (there are approximately 1,300 adults and children living with CF currently), such nervousness is entirely understandable when it comes to the coronavirus.

About 25 new cases of CF are diagnosed in the State annually while the predicted median survival age in the Republic for persons with CF remains in the early to mid-30s.

A CFI spokesperson stressed: “At the moment we don’t know how infection with Covid-19 will affect people with CF. In those who are well it may be a mild illness, but those with significant chest problems and those post-transplant, there is an added risk of more severe illness. Everybody with CF is a unique individual and their circumstances will vary. It is also important to state that having CF does not make you more likely than anyone else to catch Covid-19.”

Based on the calls that CFI has received since Thursday last in particular, many people with CF “who were working have made arrangements with their employer to work remotely or to take some time off and are staying at home”.

Among the concerns being raised with the CFI office include “the uncertainty about the impact of Covid-19 on people with CF- it is likely to vary from mild to very serious, depending on the individual- everyone is unique. The level of anxiety also varies from person to person”.

In addition, the safety of hospitals in the event of the virus escalating has been raised. “It should be noted that people with CF are generally and regularly treated in designated CF units in major hospitals, which is different to the general population,” the CFI spokesperson stressed. Income adequacy, “particularly for those in temporary on low-security employment” have also been cited in recent days.

In line with the HSE’s advice, CFI has urged people with CF to:

* Look after themselves

* Continue with usual treatments

* Phone ahead in advance of hospital appointments if they have any concerns

* Avoid close contact with those with any respiratory systems

* Be vaccinated against other preventable infections and to

* Contact your employer to make reasonable adjustments

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland is continuing to provide support including grants for social distress and counselling, advocacy on behalf of people with CF, seeking to ensure CF care is maintained as best as possible within hospitals as well as providing regular bulletins and advice.

For further information, contact CF Ireland on 1890-311-211 or email [email protected]

The Republic of Ireland has the highest rate of CF per capita in the world.

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